- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Bill Clinton hasn’t lost his knack for saying things in the most galling way possible. His egocentric double talk Tuesday in Monterey, Calif., serves as the latest example. Asked if there were any chance that his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, might renege on her word and run for president in 2004, Mr. Clinton left all options on the table, saying, “That’s really a decision for her to make.” In this glib response, he not only nonchalantly dismissed his wife’s repeated insistence that she would not run, he implied that the current field of misfit candidates was proving inept enough that Democrats might need his wife to come to the party’s rescue. Even in a Washington accustomed to cynical political showmanship, Democrats were shocked at the self-absorption of this latest episode of the Bill and Hill Show.

Mr. Clinton’s constant presence in the spotlight keeps the legitimacy of the Democratic Party in a state of limbo. Democratic fund-raisers and event planners continue to seek his assistance because he is the best political analyst they have, and because he can still turn out the party faithful with checkbooks in hand. But the scandals of the Clinton administration haven’t been forgotten, and keeping the chief scandalmaker as the party’s chief attraction prevents it from setting a new course for the future. The former president is a proven perjurer and adulterer. This makes it hard for many Americans to respect the party that treats him with the callow adulation and moral leniency that a teen-ager reserves for a rock star.

Given his role as the party’s traveling kingmaker, Mr. Clinton’s hype for his wife’s possible candidacy should remind Democratic interlocutors how little they can rely on the impeached president for honest advice and useful guidance for the 2004 race. His craving to be the center of attention means that everything he says and every action he takes are singularly in service to his own interests and ego. Using a nominal party event to shill for the Missis shows that nothing is done out of a benevolent sense of service to their political organization. While polls show Mrs. Clinton could trounce the other Democrats in the primary race, many party strategists understand that few public figures stir up feelings of popular abhorrence as strong as the former first lady does. Both America and the Democratic Party would be better off if the Clintons stayed out of the next presidential campaign.

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